CORONA DEL MAR — It might be hard to believe, but Coach George Larsen at one time almost went to someone other than Jack Gorab to take free kicks.
That was last week at Corona del Mar High, where the rain played a role in Gorab's errant balls on set pieces in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.
The weather was much better Wednesday and so were the balls Gorab kicked in the second round.
The junior gave the Sea Kings the momentum two minutes before halftime against Santa Ana Valley. Gorab scored on a beautiful free kick from 30 yards out that found the upper-left corner of the net and broke a tie and CdM never looked back, beating the Falcons, 4-2, to advance to the quarterfinals.
Gorab and the Sea Kings (15-2-7) now must travel 200 miles to face their next opponent Friday. The destination is Santa Maria and the match is at 3 p.m.
The road trip is one Gorab is looking forward to making.
"It's fun going on the road. Everyone loves it," said Gorab, whose team is facing a Santa Maria team that finished tied for second place in the competitive Los Padres League.
"It is a bit of a drag because these are such long drives, but it's always fun going to someone else's place and trying to beat them."
The Sea Kings are trying to win their second straight section title after claiming the Division IV crown last season. They had to get through a Division III section finalist in Santa Ana Valley to keep their postseason run alive.
Gorab made sure of it with his goal that gave CdM a 2-1 lead in the 38th minute. He also assisted on another goal in the 72nd minute, which crushed any hope the young Falcons had of tying the match.
On a corner kick, Gorab sent a ball toward Mason Case, who broke free from a screen. Case got his head on the ball deep in the box and quickly flicked it in to put the Sea Kings up, 4-2.
The goal total was the Sea Kings' best since Jan. 28, when they scored four goals. Larsen was glad to see the team produce scoring chances and finish them.
"In the last game, we only scored on a set piece," said Larsen, referring to the 1-0 first-round win against Garey of Pomona last Friday. "We didn't get anything on the run of play, so us scoring in the run of play was definitely something we talked about doing."
Jake Maxwell delivered for CdM three minutes into the match.
The junior streaked through the left side and split two defenders. He dribbled in before the ball popped up after a defender went in for a tackle. A nearby Connor Roche used his head to pass the ball to Maxwell, who slipped behind a defender.
In a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Salvador Vega, Maxwell easily won. The Sea Kings took a 1-0 lead, only to wake up the Falcons.
They went on runs in the following minutes, taking the action to CdM. The Falcons tied the match in the 22nd minute, when Arturo Olivo made the most of a corner kick by Carlos Muñoz. Olivo, near the far post, scored.
Santa Ana Valley appeared to take control, despite having no starters back from last season's team that made an appearance in the section finale. Then Gorab shook the Falcons' confidence right before halftime.
"We go in, 1-1, feeling good," said Santa Ana Valley Coach Jose Sanchez if it were not for allowing Gorab to score, but the keeper stood no chance of stopping the shot. "They get one [goal] early [in the] second half [on a penalty kick by Brian Ford]. Their goals were just [a result of our] defensive mistakes on set pieces. We knew they obviously got the height [advantage] and we knew we would struggle with that."
While CdM had the size, Santa Ana Valley featured the most talented players Larsen said his team has faced this season. He was happy to have Grady Howe back after a back injury sidelined the junior midfielder for most of the season.
The Sea Kings and Falcons were supposed to play a nonleague match in December, but the rain cancelled the event.
"That might have helped us prepare," Sanchez said if the match had went on as planned. "I wish we would've played them. We tried to reschedule, but we couldn't agree on time."
One thing Sanchez agreed on was how physical CdM played.